On Thursday, May 19, 2016, Jane Pan, Executive Director of HBI-DC, accepted the HHS Viral Hepatitis Testing Award from Acting Assistant Secretary for Health, Dr. Karen DeSalvo, MD, MPH, MSc, at the White House Eisenhower Executive Office Building.
HBI-DC was one of 12 award recipients to be honored at this event for its "outstanding commitment to increasing the number of individuals who are aware of their hepatitis B and C status."
See HHS Press Release
Watch event here!
Watch recording above!
On Wednesday, May 4, the White House recognized ten individuals from across the country as “White House Champions of Change for Asian American and Pacific Islander Art and Storytelling.”
During Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month in May, the White House and White House Initiative on AAPIs are celebrating artists and advocates who have used unique channels and diverse platforms to tell powerful stories, increase awareness around key AAPI issues, and encourage diversity and inclusion in all sectors of society. These ten individuals were selected for their leadership and tireless work to raise the visibility of diverse AAPI experiences and create dialogue around issues the community faces.
The event featured remarks by Assistant to the President and Chief of Staff to the First Lady Tina Tchen, National Endowment for the Arts Chairman Jane Chu, and White House Initiative on AAPIs Executive Director Doua Thor. Panels with the Champions of Change will be moderated by Phil Yu, blogger of Angry Asian Man, and Jeanny Kim, Acting Director of the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center.
The Champions of Change program was created as an opportunity for the White House to feature individuals doing extraordinary things to empower and inspire members of their communities. Follow the conversation at #WHChamps. As part of AAPI Heritage Month, the White House is working with StoryCorps to share and document AAPI stories under #MyAAPIStory. To learn more, visit here.
Tanzila "Taz" Ahmed – Los Angeles, CA
Tanzila "Taz" Ahmed is an activist, storyteller, and politico based in Los Angeles. An electoral organizer by trade, she’s mobilized thousands of AAPIs to the polls in over seventeen different languages in the past fifteen years at various nonprofit organizations, starting with founding South Asian American Voting Youth in 2004. She is Campaign Strategist at 18MillionRising, an Asian American new media organizing group. She is cohost of the #GoodMuslimBadMuslim podcast that has been featured in O Magazine, Wired, and Buzzfeed. An avid essayist, she had a monthly column called Radical Love, was a blogger for Sepia Mutiny, has written for Truthout, The Aerogram, The Nation, Left Turn Magazine, and more. She is published in forthcoming anthology Good Girls Marry Doctors (2016) and poetry collection Coiled Serpent (2016) and was published in the anthology Love, Inshallah (2012). Her third poetry chapbook Emdash and Ellipses will be published in early 2016. Taz curates Desi music at Mishthi Music where she co-produced Beats for Bangladesh and she annually makes #MuslimVDay Cards. Her artwork was featured in the shows Sharia Revoiced (2015), in Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center’s H-1B (2015), and Rebel Legacy: Activist Art from South Asian California (2014).
Selu Alofipo – North Salt Lake, Utah
Selu Alofipo is a self-taught expressionist artist who immigrated to the United States from the Island of Samoa in 1983. He received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Louisiana Tech University while on a football scholarship and credits much of his success to the opportunities made available to him through his parent's hard work and family support. As a first-generation Samoan American, Selu feels a tremendous responsibility not only to his family, but also to his Samoan heritage to persevere, progress, and succeed by doing things the right way and by utilizing the values instilled in him as young child--faith, family, respect, and above all, hard work. Selu has returned to his local elementary, junior high, and high schools to speak to students and to personally thank the teachers and administration for their dedication by donating customized original paintings as a token of gratitude.
Quang Vu Minh Do – Birmingham, Alabama
Quang Do is a spoken word poet and student development professional at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB). Quang has worked to empower AAPI youth and has extensive experience as a teaching artist facilitating writing/performance workshops using spoken word as a tool to help communities better understand the personal and cultural needs of the AAPI community. The themes of love, identity, oppression, compassion, and humanity are all foundational to Quang’s poetry. Quang is a multi-time Grand Slam Champion of the Montevallo Poetry slam, TEDxBirmingham 2015 speaker, and top finalist at the Southern Fried Regional Poetry Slam. He currently serves as Coordinator of Student Leadership at UAB where he advises and works with the Black Student Awareness Committee, the Multicultural Greek Council, the Multicultural Council, International Mentors, as well a host of other organizations and programs. Previously, Quang was a full-time touring and teaching artist.
Jason Fong – Redondo Beach, California
Jason Fong, born in Los Angeles, California, is a junior at Redondo Union High School and third-generation Chinese-Korean American. Jason is interested in progressive politics, having written extensively on issues such as police brutality, affirmative action, and immigration. He is the founder of the popular hashtag #MyAsianAmericanStory, which has earned millions of impressions on Twitter. His blog, JasonFongWrites, has been featured in news outlets such as the Los Angeles Times, the Atlantic, NBC, and CNN. Jason has participated on panels about social media, civil rights, and Asian American identity at colleges, including the University of California, Riverside and the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.
Kayhan Irani – Jackson Heights, New York
Kayhan Irani is an Emmy Award-winning writer, a socially engaged artist, and a Theater of the Oppressed trainer and facilitator. She designs and directs socially engaged arts projects for community-based organizations, government agencies, and international NGOs. She facilitates workshops and trainings nationally and internationally in Afghanistan, India, and Iraq. Her published work includes Telling Stories to Change the World: Global Voices on the Power of Narrative to Build Community and Make Social Justice Claims (2008). In 2010, Kayhan won a New York Emmy Award in best writing for We Are New York, a nine-episode broadcast TV drama created with the NYC Mayor's Office of Adult Education and used as an English language and civic engagement tool for immigrant New Yorkers. She is currently producing Documented cIRCA 86: Immigration Reform Turns Thirty, a multimedia oral history and public engagement project that celebrates the lives and accomplishments of immigrants who found a pathway to legalization through the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) of 1986.
Grace Lin — Florence, Massachusetts
Grace Lin is an award-winning and bestselling author and illustrator of picture books, early readers, and middle grade novels, including the Newbery Honor Book "Where the Mountain Meets the Moon." An advocate for diversity in children's book, Grace gave the TEDx talk, "The Windows and Mirrors of Your Child's Bookshelf." Most of Grace's books are about the Asian American experience.
Fawzia Mirza – Chicago, Illinois
Fawzia Mirza is a Pakistani, Muslim, and queer actor, writer, and producer based in Chicago. She has written and produced theatre, web series, short films, documentaries, and more. Fawzia is a creative workaholic and believes in the power of art, storytelling, and comedy to break down stereotypes across all her identities, as well as dispelling the model minority myth seen in both the media and her communities. Fawzia is currently producing her first feature film Signature Move, which is about a Pakistani woman seeking her identity in love and wrestling, and was selected to be part of the 2016 Tribeca Film Institute All Access program. She is the recipient of the 2015 3Arts Award and was named a Rising Star in Indie Filmmaking by WBEZ Chicago and a Top Ten Creative by Indiewire Magazine.
Leslie Hsu Oh – Middletown, Delaware
Leslie Hsu Oh is an award-winning writer whose work has been named among the distinguished stories of the year by Best American Essays. Losing her mother and brother to hepatitis B at age 21 inspired her to found the Hepatitis B Initiative in 1997, which she later expanded to the Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, D.C. area with Thomas Oh. Today, this award-winning nonprofit continues to operate in several states mobilizing communities to prevent liver diseases caused by hepatitis B and C among AAPIs, African Americans and other high-risk groups. Earning masters in fine arts and public health from Harvard, she is the recipient of the Rasmuson Individual Artist Award, the first Julius B. Richmond Young Leader in Public Health Award, the first National Award for Excellence in Public Health Leadership, the Sun Memorial Award for exemplifying a commitment to improving the health and well-being of people in underserved populations, and the Schweitzer Award for reverence for life. Her writing and photography has appeared or is forthcoming in Alaska Magazine, Asian Fortune Magazine, Backpacker Magazine, First Alaskans Magazine, Fourth Genre, Parenting Magazine, Rosebud Magazine, Smithsonian Magazine, Sierra Magazine, Under the Sun, Washington Post On Parenting, Washington Post Travel, of which several are excerpts from a memoir-in-progress including the essay named in Best American Essays. See www.lesliehsuoh.com or @lesliehsuoh.
Hinaleimoana Wong-Kalu – Honolulu, HI
Hinaleimoana Wong-Kalu is a Native Hawaiian teacher, cultural practitioner, and community leader. Her work as an innovative teacher was highlighted in the award-winning PBS documentary Kumu Hina from which emerged A Place in the Middle, a nationally-recognized youth-focused, culturally centered educational program aimed at making schools and communities safe and inclusive for all. Hina serves as the gubernatorially-appointed Chair of the O'ahu Island Burial Council, charged with overseeing the protection and care of ancestral remains, and is leading a Hawaii State Department of Corrections program to empower offenders preparing for community reintegration. She was a founding member of Kulia Na Mamo, a community organization established to improve the quality of life for māhūwahine (transgender women), and served for 13 years as Director of Culture at Hālau Lōkahi Public Charter School in Honolulu. Hina is the recipient of the National Education Association’s 2016 Ellison S. Onizuka Memorial Award.
Jenny Yang – Los Angeles, California
Jenny Yang is a Los Angeles-based writer and standup comedian who produces a (mostly) female, Asian American standup comedy tour, Disoriented Comedy, and has been a writer and performer on the viral Buzzfeed videos that have amassed over 20 million combined views such as "Ways Our Asian Moms Say 'I Love You'" and the "Ask An Asian" video series. In 2015, Jenny produced the first-annual The Comedy Comedy Festival: A Comedy Festival, an Asian American comedy festival featuring the best emerging and veteran standup, sketch, improv, and writing talent. Drawing from her former career in politics, Jenny is a regular commentator on politics and pop culture with contributions featured on NPR, Southern California Public Radio, The Guardian, NBC News, BBC News, Al Jazeera America, and Pivot TV. She has been an actor and host in numerous digital projects including Comedy Central’s White Flight and AngryAsianMan.com Phil Yu's Angry Asian America talk show on ISAtv, a new media platform created by Far East Movement and Wong Fu Productions. Jenny was dubbed one of Los Angeles' "most fascinating people" of 2015 in LA Weekly's annual "People" issue, and a featured standup comic on Joan Rivers' 2013 Showtime documentary Why We Laugh: Funny Women.
See White House Champions of Change and White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders for more information.
Leslie Hsu Oh will be presenting "The Untold Story of Hepatitis B" to students at the George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences on Tuesday, November 23 at GW SMHS Ross Hall, 2300 I St NW, Washington, DC 20052. Her talk is sponsored by the GW Asian Pacific American Medical Students Association, Infectious Disease Interest Group, and Social Justice Interest Group. Anyone is welcome to attend. Please RSVP to Emmeline Ha at email@example.com, preferably by Monday morning so she can obtain your access to the building.
On July 16, 2015, Leslie Hsu Oh spoke in Boston at an Asian American Journalist Workshop sponsored by Gilead. Panelists included Dr. Rong Guan, Co-Medical Director at South Cove Community Health Center where HBI first launched free hepatitis B screenings and vaccinations; Dr. Daryl Lau, Associate Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School and Director of Translational Liver Research at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center who is a former HBI-Boston Advisor; Chhan Touch, Nurse practitioner at Metta Health Center, and Team HBV at Harvard Shirley Mo and Dylan Tan, who work closely with HBI-Boston at MAP for Health.
SinoVision interviewed Leslie on July 16, 2015: http://video.sinovision.net/?id=29558&cid=120
Sampan Newspaper published this article on July 24, 2015: http://sampan.org/2015/07/asian-americans-face-increased-hepatitis-risk
Stay tuned for more photos and stories from: Boston Chinese News, Sing Tao Newspapers, and World Journal.
We are pleased to share the speech Founder Leslie Hsu Oh made at Congressional Viral Hepatitis Reception:
Tonight, I'm speaking on behalf of those who cannot speak for themselves. These include my mother, brother, Ryan's Gill, Tom Lee and anyone who lost their life to viral hepatitis. This also includes 4.4 million Americans living with chronic hepatitis B or C and the 5 million Americans who do not know they are infected.
It is this latter group that I belonged to about 20 years ago when my brother phoned me in the middle of the night. This phone call will result in the loss of my entire family in a few years.
I was nineteen, just a few months into enjoying my college life, when my 17-year-old brother woke one night in pain. There were no symptoms, no warning, to prepare us for the news that he had liver cancer caused by hepatitis B. And my mother also had hepatitis B.
Jon-Jon died shortly after his 18th birthday.
A week later, we haven't even buried my brother yet and my mother was diagnosed with liver cancer. A journalist and photographer, she spent the next two months writing a memoir about Jon-Jon’s illness without mentioning her own. A year later, she died never knowing that her book was translated into Chinese and continues to be published internationally.
Since the doctor explained to her that the majority of Asians contract the virus from mother to child during birth, my mother tormented herself with the questions: Was this all my fault? Did I kill my son?
In those days, the hepatitis B vaccine was not administered to infants or required for daycare or school so even though my mother was pro-vaccine and diligent about our health-checkups, no one ever screened or vaccinated us for hepatitis B.
My mother died a few weeks before my twenty-first birthday. She died on the day of her twenty fifth anniversary. My father sold everything that reminded him of my mother and brother, then replaced them with a new wife and son.
That was the way my father grieved: to erase rather than preserve.
My relatives expected me to do the same. Don’t show weakness. Pretend nothing bad happened. I disappointed them all by doing just the opposite.
I founded the Hepatitis B Initiative in 1997 a few months after I started my studies at Harvard. Medical and public health students from all over Boston learned how to collaborate at an early stage in their career. Today, many organizations are using this model to harness the energy of students and their ability to facilitate partnerships between community organizations that wouldn't normally work together.
In 2002, a few months after our wedding, Thomas Oh and I expanded the Hepatitis B Initiative to the DC area. This time we delivered education, screening, and vaccinations directly to places that hard-to-reach populations gather, locations that other organizations might not have access to like schools, churches, health fairs, ESL programs, etc...
What makes HBI so effective: We believe the community is the expert in knowing what are the best methods to reach out to their peers. In the process of developing their own outreach strategies and materials, they learn about hepatitis and become advocates in their community. The outreach program they create is stronger and more sustainable since it is embedded into their way of life.
This is why 18 years later HBI is still operating in several states with little funding, on the sheer passion of volunteers. I often hear from former HBI leaders who continue to launch hepatitis B programs when they graduate to their next school or workplace.
Now under the leadership of Executive Director Jane Pan, HBI-DC screens more than 1000 a year and continues to deliver hepatitis B and C education, screenings, vaccinations, and treatment referrals to locations where the community gathers.
Because we empower community members to reach out to their own peers, people are more likely to be open about their fears.
It’s rare to find someone like Congressman Hank Johnson who’s willing to openly talk about his condition. Most chronic hepatitis B carriers prefer to be silent. They are worried about what other people think. They are worried that they will lose their jobs or ruin their chance of finding a partner. Many won't even get screened because they believe that it’s better not to know whether they have hepatitis B or liver cancer or cirrhosis. They would rather just be happy and live their life since there are no symptoms.
Part of it is human nature, to ignore what we are scared of. But it’s cultural too. I have been told all of my life to “Save face.” The Chinese even have an idiom that some translate to “There’s more power in silence.”
Out of respect for my family, even I am not allowed to share the extent to which hepatitis B continues to impact my life. My relatives have never approved of my public role in hepatitis advocacy. They have however given me permission to publish a memoir that I’ve been working on that will give voice to those who cannot speak for themselves. Perhaps, one day, you will find this book a useful tool in your advocacy work because in the end, this is not just a story about my mother or brother or hepatitis B or C or vaccine-preventable diseases, it’s about not being afraid of what other people think.
Please join us via live stream today from 12:00 PM - 2:30 PM (Eastern) at www.whitehouse.gov/live. You can also join the conversation on Twitter with hashtag #WorldHepatitisDay.
This year, Executive Director Jane Pan receives award. Dr. Howard Koh will make his last public appearance as Assistant Secretary for Health.
Last year, Founder Leslie Hsu Oh spoke at this event.
Did you know that The Hepatitis B Initiative (HBI) was founded 17 years ago and HBI-DC was founded 12 years ago? Albert Schweitzer Fellowship posts in "A Leader in Service":
We’re proud that Oh’s program [The Hepatitis B Initiative] began as a Schweitzer Fellowship project and that it has grown and continues to be successful 17 years later. This is exactly what we mean when we talk about our mission to develop a corp of Leaders in Service – professionals who are skilled at making positive changes with and in underserved communities. Oh is doing exactly that.
Working to eradicate hepatitis B in D.C., MD, and VA